Santa Barbara Women United Leadership Team: Amber Ortiz, left, Val Montgomery, Susan Hanna, Maryan Schall, Julie Karbula, Tamara Skov, Susan Hersberger. Not pictured, Andria Kahmann. (Courtesy photo)

United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) has introduced the new local group of Women United, a global network of women leaders dedicated to creating a world of opportunity for everyone through United Way partnerships and programs.

The group will hold its launch event 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, at the Hotel Californian.

Keynote speakers are Tina McEnroe, founder of McEnroe Reading & Language Arts Clinic in Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, UCSB; and Marni McGee, acclaimed children’s author.

Locally, Women United will increase philanthropic support and spearhead advocacy efforts for targeted UWSBC K-12 educational initiatives, such as the Kindergarten Success Institute and United for Literacy, UWSB said.

Women United ensures that more underserved children and families succeed during crucial early elementary school years and beyond, UWSB said.

“Women are an incredible force, raising more money for charitable organizations across the globe than ever before,” said Susan Hersberger, local Women United volunteer chair, who recently retired from Aera Energy.

“The results demonstrate that United Way’s school readiness and literacy programs make important differences each day, and we’re honored to bring together a network of enthusiastic and dedicated philanthropic women in our community to support those programs,” she said.

The Santa Barbara County founding group consists of local women who are community leaders committed to improving opportunities for local children and families, UWSB said.

Internationally, Women United has some 70,000 members who work to address the critical needs of more than 165 communities across six countries, raising more than $1.5 billion over 13 years, UWSB reports.

“I am excited to be a founding member of Women United. Together, we will make a positive difference for many of Santa Barbara’s youngest learners,” said Amber Ortiz, vice president/private banker, City National Bank and founding member of Women United.

“At City National, we believe that a good education and the ability to learn throughout one’s lifetime are vital to achieve success,” she said.

For its first event, Women United said it thanks lead sponsors Aera Energy, City National Bank and Maryan Schall. Other sponsors include American Riviera Bank and Bryant & Sons.

The mission of Women United is to mobilize a powerful leadership network of women to strengthen the Santa Barbara community through a focused investment of talent, compassion and philanthropy, UWSB said.

Women United works to improve the community through participating in enriching volunteer, networking and educational activities, UWSB said.

Tickets to the launch event are $75 per person. To buy tickets or for more information, visit:

Angel Pacheco is a publicist for United Way of Santa Barbara County.